The jaguar is the subject of many myths and hunters ' tales. The largest American wildcat, it is now rare in its natural habitat as the result of being hunted for its attractive fur. Jaguars live in a variety of habitats, from dense jungle and scrubland to reed thickets and shoreline forests. They will even live in open country, provided the grass and rocks offer enough cover for hunting , and a reliable supply of water is available.
Habits: Adult jaguars are solitary, seeking each other out only during breeding season, when male and females stay together for a short time to mate. A young jaguar stays with its mother for a few years before leaving to find hunting territories of its own. The size of a jaguar's territory depends on the food availability. In an area where food is plentiful, such as a forest, a jaguar can survive in a circular area of about three miles in diameter. Where food is scarce, it may need to roam over an area of 200 square miles.
Breeding: Very little is known about the family life of wild jaguars. They have been hunted almost to extinction for their fur. Biologists now find it difficult to study wild jaguars because they have become so rare. Most information comes from studying captive jaguars in zoos. where the animals have been bred successfully. Males and females meet in the wild only to mate. The makes leaves as soon as mating is over, and the female brings up the young on her own. She gives birth to 1 to 4 cubs, which are blind at birth and weight 25-32 ounces. The cubs begin exploring the world outside the den in about two weeks, when their eyes are open. They begin hunting with their mother at the age of six months. THey remain with her for the first two years before leaving to find a territory of their own in which to hunt. A jaguar is sexually mature at 3 years of age.
Food & Hunting: Jaguars hunt mainly on the ground, however they will climb trees to lie in wait for prey. The jaguar can cover short distances rapidly, bit it tires quickly. It hunts mainly at night and often surprises it unsuspecting prey. its food consist mostly of forest animals varying in size from mice to deer. The jaguar is a proficient swimmer and also eats frogs, fish, turtles, and small alligators. It is especially skilled at catching fish which it does by flipping the fish out onto the riverbank with its paws. Jaguars will also kill domestic animals, particularly where the forest has been cleared for farmland.
Jaguars & Man: Jaguars were once found in an area ranging from Arizona to Argentina, but ruthless hunting has reduced their population. The cleaning of forest to build new settlements and pastures for cattle has forced them out of much of their original habitat. Jaguars are thought to be numerous in the upper basin of the Orinoco, in Venezuela, but everywhere else they are in danger of extinction. There are fewer than 200 wild jaguars left in all remain populations in all of Argentina. Soon, the only remaining populations will live in zoo's. Although jaguars have a reputation as man eaters, there are numerous stories about men being followed for miles through the forest by solitary jaguars. There stories give credence to the theory that the animals prefer to escort man than attack them.
Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle,
Length: 44 73 in. Tail 18-30 in
Weight: Males 125 - 250 lb, females, 100 - 200 lbs
Sexual maturity: 3 years
Mating: Non seasonal in tropics; early autumn in extremes of range
Gestation: 93 - 110 days
No of young: Usually 1 - 4 cubs
Lifestyle: Habit: Solitary except in breeding
season, when they come together to mate.
Diet: Ground living mammals, domestic stock, fish, frogs, turtles, and small alligators..
Related Species: Eight subspecies; also P. tigris, p. leo, P. pardus, and P. uncia.
Distribution: Central and South America as far south as Patagonia, the largest Jaguars are founding Mato Grosso in Brazil.
Conservation: All subspecies are endangered. Many are extinct except in zoos. where they breed successfully. At present, the largest threats to the jaguar are over hunting (mostly for its fur) and the loss of its habitat to farming.
Did you know:
One jaguar tagged by a biologist was next seen 500 miles away in a new hunting location. The jaguar is the only big cat that does not roar.
Amazonian Indians tell of jaguars emerging from the forest to play with village children.
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